The Illiad: The Death of Hector.
The Death of Hector.
The Trojans being safe within the walls, Hector only stays to oppose Achilles. Priam is struck at his approach, and tries to persuade his son to re-enter the town. Hecuba joins his entreaties, but in vain. Hector consults within himself what measures to take; but, at the advance of Achilles, his resolution fails him, and he flies: Achilles pursues him thrice round the walls of Troy. The gods debate concerning the fate of Hector; at length Minerva descends to the aid of Achilles. She deludes Hector in the shape of Deiphobus; he stands the combat, and is slain. Achilles drags the dead body at his chariot, in the sight of Priam and Hecuba. Their lamentations, tears, and despair. Their cries reach the ears of Andromache, who, ignorant of this, was retired into the inner part of the palace; she mounts up to the walls, and beholds her dead husband. She swoons at the spectacle. Her excess of grief and lamentation.
The thirtieth day still continues. The scene lies under the walls, and on the battlements of Troy.
Within the walls escaping, dried their sweat,
And drank, and quench'd their thirst, reclining safe
On the fair battlements; but nearer drew,
With slanted shields, the Greeks; yet Hector still
In front of Ilium and the Scaean gate,
Stay'd by his evil doom, remain'd without;
Then Phoebus thus to Peleus' godlike son:
"Achilles, why with active feet pursue,
Thou mortal, me Immortal? know'st thou not
My Godhead, that so hot thy fury burns?
Or heed'st thou not that all the Trojan host
Whom thou hast scar'd, while thou art here withdrawn,
Within the walls a refuge safe have found?
On me thy sword is vain! I know not death!"
"Deep is the injury, far-darting King,
Most hostile of the Gods, that at thy hand
I bear, who here hast lur'd me from the walls,
Which many a Trojan else had fail'd to reach,
Ere by my hand they bit the bloody dust.
Me of immortal honour thou hast robb'd,
And them, thyself from vengeance safe, hast sav'd.
Had I the pow'r, that vengeance thou shouldst feel."
He turn'd him city-ward, with fiery speed;
As when a horse, contending for the prize,
Whirls the swift car, and stretches o'er the plain,
E'en so, with active limbs, Achilles rac'd.
Scouring the plain, in arms all dazzling bright,
Like to th' autumnal star, whose brilliant ray
Shines eminent amid the depth of night,
Whom men the dog-star of Orion call;
The brightest he, but sign to mortal man
Of evil augury, and fiery heat:
So shone the brass upon the warrior's breast.
His hands, he beat his head, and with loud voice
Call'd on his son, imploring; he, unmov'd,
Held post before the gates, awaiting there
Achilles' fierce encounter; him his sire,
With hands outstretch'd and piteous tone, address'd:
That warrior's charge, lest thou to fate succumb,
Beneath Pelides' arm, thy better far!
Accurs'd be he! would that th' immortal Gods
So favour'd him as I! then should his corpse
Soon to the vultures and the dogs be giv'n!
(So should my heart a load of anguish lose)
By whom I am of many sons bereav'd,
Many and brave, whom he has slain, or sold
To distant isles in slav'ry; and e'en now,
Within the city walls I look in vain
For two, Lycaon brave, and Polydore,
My gallant sons, by fair Laothoe:
If haply yet they live, with brass and gold
Their ransom shall be paid; good store of these
We can command; for with his daughter fair
A wealthy dowry aged Altes gave.
But to the viewless shades should they have gone,
Deep were their mother's sorrow and my own;
But of the gen'ral public, well I know
Far lighter were the grief, than if they heard
That thou hadst fall'n beneath Achilles' hand.
Then enter now, my son, the city gates,
And of the women and the men of Troy,
Be still the guardian; nor to Peleus' son,
With thine own life, immortal glory give.
Look too on me with pity; me, on whom,
E'en on the threshold of mine age, hath Jove
A bitter burthen cast, condemn'd to see
My sons struck down, my daughters dragg'd away
In servile bonds; our chambers' sanctity
Invaded; and our babes by hostile hands
Dash'd to the ground; and by ferocious Greeks
Enslav'd the widows of my slaughter'd sons.
On me at last the rav'ning dogs shall feed,
When by some foeman's hand, by sword or lance,
My soul shall from my body be divorc'd;
Those very dogs which I myself have bred,
Fed at my table, guardians of my gate,
Shall lap my blood, and over-gorg'd shall lie
E'en on my threshold. That a youth should fall
Victim, to Mars, beneath a foeman's spear,
May well beseem his years; and if he fall
With honour, though he die, yet glorious he!
But when the hoary head and hoary beard,
And naked corpse to rav'ning dogs are giv'n,
No sadder sight can wretched mortals see."
The hoary hair; yet Hector firm remain'd.
Then to the front his mother rush'd, in tears,
Her bosom bare, with either hand her breast
Sustaining, and with tears address'd him thus:
"Hector, my child, thy mother's breast revere;
And on this bosom if thine infant woes
Have e'er been hush'd, bear now in mind, dear child,
The debt thou ow'st; and from within the walls
Ward off this fearful man, nor in the field
Encounter; curs'd be he! should he prevail,
And slay thee, not upon the fun'ral bed,
My child, my own, the offspring of my womb,
Shall I deplore thee, nor thy widow'd wife,
But far away, beside the Grecian ships,
Thy corpse shall to the rav'ning dogs be giv'n."
Address'd their son; yet Hector firm remain'd,
Waiting th' approach of Peleus' godlike son.
As when a snake upon the mountain side,
With deadly venom charg'd, beside his hole,
Awaits the traveller, and fill'd with rage,
Coil'd round his hole, his baleful glances darts;
So fill'd with dauntless courage Hector stood,
Scorning retreat, his gleaming buckler propp'd
Against the jutting tow'r; then, deeply mov'd,
Thus with his warlike soul communion held:
The city gates, I should the just reproach
Encounter of Polydamas, who first
His counsel gave within the walls to lead
The Trojan forces, on that fatal night
When great Achilles in the field appear'd.
I heeded not his counsel; would I had!
Now, since my folly hath the people slain,
I well might blush to meet the Trojan men,
And long-rob'd dames of Troy, lest some might say,
To me inferior far, 'This woful loss
To Hector's blind self-confidence we owe.'
Thus shall they say; for me, 'twere better far,
Or from Achilles, slain in open fight,
Back to return in triumph, or myself
To perish nobly in my country's cause.
What if my bossy shield I lay aside,
And stubborn helmet, and my pond'rous spear
Propping against the wall, go forth to meet
Th' unmatch'd Achilles? What if I engage
That Helen's self, and with her all the spoil,
And all that Paris in his hollow ships
Brought here to Troy, whence first this war arose,
Should be restor'd; and to the Greeks be paid
An ample tribute from the city's stores,
Her secret treasures; and hereafter bind
The Trojans by their Elders' solemn oaths
Nought to withhold, but fairly to divide
Whate'er of wealth our much-loved city holds?
But wherefore entertain such thoughts, my soul?
Should I so meet him, what if he should show
Nor pity nor remorse, but slay me there,
Defenceless as a woman, and unarm'd?
Not this the time, nor he the man, with whom
By forest oak or rock, like youth and maid,
To hold light talk, as youth and maid might hold.
Better to dare the fight, and know at once
To whom the vict'ry is decreed by Heav'n."
Achilles, terrible as plumed Mars;
From his right shoulder brandishing aloft
The ashen spear of Peleus, while around
Flash'd his bright armour, dazzling as the glare
Of burning fire, or of the rising sun.
Hector beheld, and trembled at the sight;
Nor dar'd he there await th' attack, but left
The gates behind, and, terror-stricken, fled.
Forward, with flying foot, Pelides rush'd.
As when a falcon, bird of swiftest flight,
From some high mountain-top, on tim'rous dove
Swoops fiercely down; she, from beneath, in fear,
Evades the stroke; he, dashing through the brake,
Shrill-shrieking, pounces on his destin'd prey;
So, wing'd with desp'rate hate, Achilles flew,
So Hector, flying from his keen pursuit,
Beneath the walls his active sinews plied.
They by the watch-tow'r, and beneath the wall
Where stood the wind-beat fig-tree, rac'd amain
Along the public road, until they reach'd
The fairly-flowing fount whence issu'd forth,
From double source, Scamander's eddying streams.
One with hot current flows, and from beneath,
As from a furnace, clouds of steam arise;
'Mid summer's heat the other rises cold
As hail, or snow, or water crystalliz'd;
Beside the fountains stood the washing-troughs
Of well-wrought stone, where erst the wives of Troy
And daughters fair their choicest garments wash'd,
In peaceful times, ere came the sons of Greece.
There rac'd they, one in flight, and one pursuing;
Good he who fled, but better who pursu'd,
With fiery speed; for on that race was stak'd
No common victim, no ignoble ox:
The prize at stake was mighty Hector's life.
As when the solid-footed horses fly
Around the course, contending for the prize,
Tripod, or woman of her lord bereft;
So rac'd they thrice around the walls of Troy
With active feet; and all the Gods beheld.
Then thus began the Sire of Gods and men:
"A woful sight mine eyes behold; a man
I love in flight around the walls! my heart
For Hector grieves, who, now upon the crown
Of deeply-furrow'd Ida, now again
On Ilium's heights, with fat of choicest bulls
Hath pil'd mine altar; whom around the walls,
With flying speed Achilles now pursues.
Give me your counsel, Gods, and say, from death
If we shall rescue him, or must he die,
Brave as he is, beneath Pelides' hand?"
"O Father, lightning-flashing, cloud-girt King,
What words are these? wouldst thou a mortal man,
Long doom'd by fate, again from death preserve?
Do as thou wilt, but not with our consent."
"Be of good cheer, my child! unwillingly
I speak, yet both thy wishes to oppose:
Have then thy will, and draw not back thy hand."
And from Olympus' heights in haste she sped.
The swift Achilles press'd: as when a hound,
Through glen and tangled brake, pursues a fawn,
Rous'd from its lair upon the mountain side;
And if awhile it should evade pursuit,
Low crouching in the copse, yet quests he back,
Searching unwearied, till he find the trace;
So Hector sought to baffle, but in vain,
The keen pursuit of Peleus' active son.
Oft as he sought the shelter of the gates
Beneath the well-built tow'rs, if haply thence
His comrades' weapons might some aid afford;
So oft his foeman, with superior speed,
Would cut him off, and turn him to the plain.
He tow'rd the city still essay'd his flight;
And as in dreams, when one pursues in vain,
One seeks in vain to fly, the other seeks
As vainly to pursue; so could not now
Achilles reach, nor Hector quit, his foe.
Yet how should Hector now the doom of death
Have 'scap'd, had not Apollo once again,
And for the last time, to his rescue come,
And giv'n him strength and suppleness of limb?
Made sign that none at Hector should presume
To cast a spear, lest one might wound, and so
The greater glory obtain, while he himself
Must be contented with the second place.
But when the fourth time in their rapid course
The founts were reach'd, th' Eternal Father hung
His golden scales aloft, and plac'd in each
The lots of doom, for great Achilles one,
For Hector one, and held them by the midst:
Down sank the scale, weighted with Hector's death,
Down to the shades, and Phoebus left his side.
And stood beside him, and bespoke him thus:
"Achilles, lov'd of Heav'n, I trust that now
To thee and me great glory shall accrue
In Hector's fall, insatiate of the fight.
Escape he cannot now, though at the feet
Of aegis-bearing Jove, on his behalf,
With earnest pray'r Apollo prostrate fall.
But stay thou here and take thy breath, while I
Persuade him to return and dare the fight."
Stood leaning on his brass-barb'd ashen spear.
The Goddess left him there, and went (the form
And voice assuming of Deiphobus)
In search of godlike Hector; him she found,
And standing near, with winged words address'd:
By fierce Achilles, who around the walls
Hath chas'd thee with swift foot; now stand we both
For mutual succour, and his onset wait."
"Deiphobus, of all my brothers, sons
Of Hecuba and Priam, thou hast been
Still dearest to my heart; and now the more
I honour thee who dar'st on my behalf,
Seeing my peril, from within the walls
To sally forth, while others skulk behind."
"With many pray'rs, good brother, both our sire
And honour'd mother, and our comrades all
Successively implored me to remain;
Such fear is fall'n on all; but in my soul
On thine account too deep a grief I felt.
Now, forward boldly! spare we not our spears;
Make trial if Achilles to the ships
From both of us our bloody spoils can bear,
Or by thine arm himself may be subdued."
But when the two were met, and close at hand,
First spoke great Hector of the glancing helm:
Thrice have I fled around the walls, nor dar'd
Await thine onset; now my spirit is rous'd
To stand before thee, to be slain, or slay.
But let us first th' immortal Gods invoke;
The surest witnesses and guardians they
Of compacts: at my hand no foul disgrace
Shalt thou sustain, if Jove with victory
Shall crown my firm endurance, and thy life
To me be forfeit; of thine armour stripp'd
I promise thee, Achilles, to the Greeks
Thy body to restore; do thou the like."
"Hector, thou object of my deadly hate,
Talk not to me of compacts; as 'tween men
And lions no firm concord can exist,
Nor wolves and lambs in harmony unite,
But ceaseless enmity between them dwells:
So not in friendly terms, nor compact firm,
Can thou and I unite, till one of us
Glut with his blood the mail-clad warrior Mars.
Mind thee of all thy fence; behoves thee now
To prove a spearman skill'd, and warrior brave.
For thee escape is none; now, by my spear,
Hath Pallas doom'd thy death; my comrades' blood,
Which thou hast shed, shall all be now aveng'd."
But Hector saw, and shunn'd the blow; he stoop'd,
And o'er his shoulder flew the brass-tipp'd spear,
And in the ground was fix'd; but Pallas drew
The weapon forth, and to Achilles' hand,
All unobserv'd of Hector, gave it back.
Then Hector thus to Peleus' matchless son:
Thou godlike son of Peleus, been to thee
From Heav'n reveal'd; such was indeed thy boast;
But flippant was thy speech, and subtly fram'd
To scare me with big words, and make me prove
False to my wonted prowess and renown.
Not in my back will I receive thy spear,
But through my breast, confronting thee, if Jove
Have to thine arm indeed such triumph giv'n.
Now, if thou canst, my spear in turn elude;
May it be deeply buried in thy flesh!
For lighter were to Troy the load of war,
If thou, the greatest of her foes, wert slain."
Nor miss'd his aim; full in the midst he struck
Pelides' shield; but glancing from the shield
The weapon bounded off. Hector was griev'd,
That thus his spear had bootless left his hand.
He stood aghast; no second spear was nigh:
And loudly on Deiphobus he call'd
A spear to bring; but he was far away.
Then Hector knew that he was dup'd, and cried,
"Oh Heav'n! the Gods above have doom'd my death!
I deem'd indeed that brave Deiphobus
Was near at hand; but he within the walls
Is safe, and I by Pallas am betray'd.
Now is my death at hand, nor far away:
Escape is none; since so hath Jove decreed,
And Jove's far-darting son, who heretofore
Have been my guards; my fate hath found me now.
Yet not without a struggle let me die,
Nor all inglorious; but let some great act,
Which future days may hear of, mark my fall."
Pond'rous and vast, suspended at his side;
Collected for the spring, and forward dash'd:
As when an eagle, bird of loftiest flight,
Through the dark clouds swoops downward on the plain,
To seize some tender lamb, or cow'ring hare;
So Hector rush'd, and wav'd his sharp-edg'd sword.
Achilles' wrath was rous'd: with fury wild
His soul was fill'd: before his breast he bore
His well-wrought shield; and fiercely on his brow
Nodded the four-plum'd helm, as on the breeze
Floated the golden hairs, with which the crest
By Vulcan's hand was thickly interlac'd;
And as amid the stars' unnumber'd host,
When twilight yields to night, one star appears,
Hesper, the brightest star that shines in Heav'n,
Gleam'd the sharp-pointed lance, which in his right
Achilles pois'd, on godlike Hector's doom
Intent, and scanning eagerly to see
Where from attack his body least was fenc'd.
All else the glitt'ring armour guarded well,
Which Hector from Patroclus' corpse had stripp'd;
One chink appear'd, just where the collar-bone
The neck and shoulder parts, beside the throat,
Where lies expos'd the swiftest road of death.
There levell'd he, as Hector onward rush'd;
Right through the yielding neck the lance was driv'n,
But sever'd not the windpipe, nor destroy'd
His pow'r of speech; prone in the dust he fell;
And o'er him, vaunting, thus Achilles spoke:
Thy hope was that thyself wast safe; and I,
Not present, brought no terror to thy soul:
Fool! in the hollow ships I yet remain'd,
I, his avenger, mightier far than he;
I, who am now thy conqu'ror. By the dogs
And vultures shall thy corpse be foully torn,
While him the Greeks with fun'ral rites shall grace."
Prostrate and helpless: "By thy soul, thy knees,
Thy parents' heads, Achilles, I beseech,
Let not my corpse by Grecian dogs be torn.
Accept the ample stores of brass and gold,
Which as my ransom by my honour'd sire
And mother shall be paid thee; but my corpse
Restore, that so the men and wives of Troy
May deck with honours due my fun'ral pyre."
"Knee me no knees, vile hound! nor prate to me
Of parents! such my hatred, that almost
I could persuade myself to tear and eat
Thy mangled flesh; such wrongs I have to avenge,
He lives not, who can save thee from the dogs;
Not though with ransom ten and twenty fold
He here should stand, and yet should promise more;
No, not though Priam's royal self should sue
To be allow'd for gold to ransom thee;
No, not e'en so, thy mother shall obtain
To lay thee out upon the couch, and mourn
O'er thee, her offspring; but on all thy limbs
Shall dogs and carrion vultures make their feast."
Dying: "I know thee well; nor did I hope
To change thy purpose; iron is thy soul.
But see that on thy head I bring not down
The wrath of Heav'n, when by the Scaean gate
The hand of Paris, with Apollo's aid,
Brave warrior as thou art, shall strike thee down."
And to the viewless shades his spirit fled,
Mourning his fate, his youth and vigour lost.
"Die thou! my fate I then shall meet, whene'er
Jove and th' immortal Gods shall so decree."
And laid aside; then stripp'd the armour off,
With, blood besmear'd; the Greeks around him throng'd,
Gazing on Hector's noble form and face,
And none approach'd that did not add a wound:
And one to other look'd, and said, "Good faith,
Hector is easier far to handle now,
Then when erewhile he wrapp'd our ships in fire."
Thus would they say, then stab the dead anew.
Had stripp'd the armour from the corpse, he rose,
And, standing, thus th' assembled Greeks address'd:
"O friends, the chiefs and councillors of Greece,
Since Heav'n hath granted us this man to slay,
Whose single arm hath wrought us more of ill
Than all the rest combin'd, advance we now
Before the city in arms, and trial make
What is the mind of Troy; if, Hector slain,
They from the citadel intend retreat,
Or still, despite their loss, their ground maintain.
But wherefore entertain such thoughts, my soul?
Beside the ships, unwept, unburied, lies
Patroclus: whom I never can forget,
While number'd with the living, and my limbs
Have pow'r to move; in Hades though the dead
May be forgotten, yet e'en there will I
The mem'ry of my lov'd companion keep.
Now to the ships return we, sons of Greece,
Glad paeans singing! with us he shall go;
Great glory is ours, the godlike Hector slain,
The pride of Troy, and as a God rever'd."
Of either foot he pierc'd the tendon through,
That from the ancle passes to the heel,
And to his chariot bound with leathern thongs,
Leaving the head to trail along the ground;
Then mounted, with the captur'd arms, his car,
And urg'd his horses; nothing loth, they flew.
A cloud of dust the trailing body rais'd:
Loose hung his glossy hair; and in the dust
Was laid that noble head, so graceful once;
Now to foul insult doom'd by Jove's decree,
In his own country, by a foeman's hand.
So lay the head of Hector; at the sight
His aged mother tore her hair, and far
From off her head the glitt'ring veil she threw,
And with loud cries her slaughter'd son bewail'd.
Piteous, his father groan'd; and all around
Was heard the voice of wailing and of woe.
Such was the cry, as if the beetling height
Of Ilium all were smould'ring in the fire.
Scarce in his anguish could the crowd restrain
The old man from issuing through the Dardan gates;
Low in the dust he roll'd, imploring all,
Entreating by his name each sev'ral man:
"Forbear, my friends; though sorrowing, stay me not;
Leave me to reach alone the Grecian ships,
And there implore this man of violence,
This haughty chief, if haply he my years
May rev'rence, and have pity on my age.
For he too has a father, like to me;
Peleus, by whom he was begot, and bred,
The bane of Troy; and, most of all, to me
The cause of endless grief, who by his hand
Have been of many stalwart sons bereft.
Yet all, though griev'd for all, I less lament,
Than one, whose loss will sink me to the grave,
Hector! oh would to Heav'n that in mine arms
He could have died; with mourning then and tears
We might have satisfied our grief, both she
Who bore him, hapless mother, and myself."
Then, 'mid the women, Hecuba pour'd forth
Her vehement grief: "My child, oh whither now,
Heart-stricken, shall I go, of thee bereft,
Of thee, who wast to me by night and day
A glory and a boast; the strength of all
The men of Troy, and women? as a God
They worshipp'd thee: for in thy life thou wast
The glory of all; but fate hath found thee now."
To Hector's wife; to her no messenger
Had brought the tidings, that without the walls
Remained her husband; in her house withdrawn
A web she wove, all purple, double woof,
With varied flow'rs in rich embroidery,
And to her neat-hair'd maidens gave command
To place the largest caldrons on the fire,
That with warm baths, returning from the fight,
Hector might be refresh'd; unconscious she,
That by Achilles' hand, with Pallas' aid,
Far from the bath, was godlike Hector slain.
The sounds of wailing reach'd her from the tow'r;
Totter'd her limbs, the distaff left her hand,
And to her neat-hair'd maidens thus she spoke:
"Haste, follow me, some two, that I may know
What mean these sounds; my honour'd mother's voice
I hear; and in my breast my beating heart
Leaps to my mouth; my limbs refuse to move;
Some evil, sure, on Priam's house impends.
Be unfulfill'd my words! yet much I fear
Lest my brave Hector be cut off alone,
By great Achilles, from the walls of Troy,
Chas'd to the plain, the desp'rate courage quench'd,
Which ever led him from the gen'ral ranks
Far in advance, and bade him yield to none."
With beating heart; and with her went her maids.
But when she reach'd the tow'r, where stood the crowd,
And mounted on the wall, she look'd around,
And saw the body which with insult foul
The flying steeds were dragging towards the ships;
Then sudden darkness overspread her eyes;
Backward she fell, and gasp'd her spirit away.
Far off were flung th' adornments of her head,
The net, the fillet, and the woven bands;
The nuptial veil by golden Venus giv'n,
That day when Hector of the glancing helm
Led from Eetion's house his wealthy bride.
The sisters of her husband round her press'd,
And held, as in the deadly swoon she lay.
But when her breath and spirit return'd again,
With sudden burst of anguish thus she cried:
"Hector, oh woe is me! to misery
We both were born alike; thou here in Troy
In Priam's royal palace; I in Thebes,
By wooded Placos, in Eetion's house,
Who nurs'd my infancy; unhappy he,
Unhappier I! would I had ne'er been born!
Now thou beneath the depths of earth art gone,
Gone to the viewless shades; and me hast left
A widow in thy house, in deepest woe;
Our child, an infant still, thy child and mine,
Ill-fated parents both! nor thou to him,
Hector, shalt be a guard, nor he to thee:
For though he 'scape this tearful war with Greece,
Yet nought for him remains but ceaseless woe,
And strangers on his heritage shall seize.
No young companions own the orphan boy:
With downcast eyes, and cheeks bedew'd with tears,
His father's friends approaching, pinch'd with want,
He hangs upon the skirt of one, of one
He plucks the cloak; perchance in pity some
May at their tables let him sip the cup,
Moisten his lips, but scarce his palate touch;
While youths, with both surviving parents bless'd,
May drive him from their feast with blows and taunts,
'Begone! thy father sits not at our board:'
Then weeping, to his widow'd mother's arms
He flies, that orphan boy, Astyanax,
Who on his father's knees erewhile was fed
On choicest marrow, and the fat of lambs;
And, when in sleep his childish play was hush'd,
Was lull'd to slumber in his nurse's arms
On softest couch, by all delights surrounded.
But grief, his father lost, awaits him now,
Astyanax, of Trojans so surnam'd,
Since thou alone wast Troy's defence and guard.
But now on thee, beside the beaked ships,
Far from thy parents, when the rav'ning dogs
Have had their fill, the wriggling worms shall feed;
On thee, all naked; while within thy house
Lies store of raiment, rich and rare, the work
Of women's hands; these will I burn with fire;
Not for thy need—thou ne'er shalt wear them more,—
But for thine honour in the sight of Troy."